The Nancy Drew franchise is 82 years old, meaning that there are very few people alive who grew up before Nancy Drew. Being a product of the Herbert Hoover administration, the Nancy Drew franchise has been rebooted, retconned and spun-off more times than I could count. There is probably someone who is an authoritative expert on the complete history of the Nancy Drew books, but I am not that person.

This particular work, as its title suggests, is a spin-off where Nancy Drew, the titular detective, is attending university. Published in 1996, it seems to be an attempt to make the series more appealing to the hip and worldly demographic of the 1990's, with Nancy Drew dealing with relationship problems as well as murder.

The book has two plots, that hardly intersect. In the main, murderous plot, a professor who has been sexually harassing students is found dead, with an innocent, unworldly acquaintance of Nancy's as the main suspect.

In the secondary plot, which I believe actually takes up most of the book, an acquaintance of Nancy's, Ginny, finds herself pretending to her traditional, strict Chinese family that her boyfriend is not her boyfriend, but that a Chinese friend of hers is her boyfriend. Wacky hyjinx ensue, until her lie is finally found out. Throughout the book, there are references to other characters and ongoing plots that I would have to be a regular reader of the series to understand.

As far as the murder mystery goes, it is pretty superficial. It takes up about 80 pages of the 180 page book. The producers of the book do have the good graces to throw out at least one plausible red herring, before revealing (and I hope I am not spoiling this for anyone), that the real murderer is someone who we hadn't been introduced to yet and is just passing through town.

One thing not dealt with in the book is the sheer amount of PTSD that poor Miss Drew must deal with in her life. In her sixty years (at the time of publication) of being a teenager, Drew has seen countless assaults, arsons, kidnappings and murders, and yet has maintained her role as a chipper pillar of the community. This is actually dealt with in the book: the day after finding a bludgeoned body, Drew admits that she is somewhat distracted while watching a movie with her hunky boyfriend. Which kind of leads us to what seems to be the weak point of this series: despite being set in an adult world of murderousness, the characters are still mostly worried about holding dances and what to wear. The attempts to be darker and edgier are kind of foiled because the books still can't show anything as much as a hard nipple or a joint.

On the other hand, I did learn its better to report sexual harassment before I am cornered into committing manslaughter, and that I should stand up to my overly-demanding, strict Chinese father. These are life lessons we can all use.

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